Friday, April 28, 2017

Fighting in school

In Missouri schools now must report any and all “first degree harassment” or fights to the authorities— if those situations arise during school hours and under a school’s jurisdiction. The 'authorities' include the juvenile office, the police and the prosecutors. They determine whether a student should be charged with a crime or if action needs to be brought in juvenile court regarding the actions of the particular students. It is possible that the student could be sent to a juvenile detention center, charged with a Class E felony and spend up to four years in jail. Under the old law a child could be charged with a misdemeanor and released to their parents.

Have some seeds

Wasting Drugs

That's what most nursing homes do. When a resident dies, moves out or no longer needs a particular drug, the drugs are discarded even though they may still be useful and could help someone else. Thirty-nine states had passed laws that allow the donation of these drugs. But almost half of the states with laws lack programs to get the drugs safely from one appropriate user to another, and many of those that do have programs are focused on cancer drugs.

There are no nationwide statistics that are kept, but the waste is substantial. Colorado officials have said the state’s 220 long-term care facilities throw away a whopping 17.5 tons of potentially reusable drugs every year, with a price tag of about $10 million. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated in 2015 that about 740 tons of drugs are wasted by nursing homes each year. 

Iowa does have a law allowing the reuse of drugs. The annual costs of their program are $600,000. In fiscal 2016 the program recovered and distributed drugs valued at about $3.4 million. 

A weird commercial

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Now it's over 410

'It' is the carbon dioxide reading at the Mauna Loa Observatory. The reading was in excess of 410 parts per million (ppm), the highest in millions of years. In 1958 it was only 280 ppm.

The problem, as we know, is world-wide. Venice is installing $6 billion worth of sea gates to protect against increased tidal flooding. The Great Barrier Reef is disappearing. Coastal erosion threatens scores of treasured sites in Scotland.  Easter Island is in danger. Here, most of the glaciers that in the 19th century dotted what is now Glacier National Park have already melted, and the rest are expected to be gone within this century. Archaeological sites on the Alaska coast are being lost. The Statue of Liberty, cannot be considered safe: Flooding from Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of the infrastructure on Liberty Island in 2012.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Drug Overdose Mortality by State

Top 10 states per National Center for Health Statistics:

                                             Overdose         
                                            Death Rate       Deaths
West Virginia                              41.5                725
New Hampshire                          34.3                422
Ohio                                          29.9              3,310
Kentucky                                   29.9              1,273
Rhode Island                              28.2                310
Pennsylvania                              26.3             3,264
Massachusetts                            25.7             1,724
New Mexico                                25.3                501
Utah                                          23.4                646
Tennessee                                  22.2             1,457




A different kind of twins

Carmen and Lupita Andrade are a somewhat different type of conjoined twins. Most conjoined twins are stillborn or die shortly after birth. The Andrade sisters, who are now 16, are attached along their chest walls down to their pelvis where their spines meet. They each have two arms, but only a single leg, with Carmen controlling the right and Lupita, the left. The girls each have a heart, a set of arms, a set of lungs and a stomach, but they share some ribs, a liver, their circulatory system, and their digestive and reproductive systems. Years ago, they spent long hours in physical therapy, learning how to get up off their backs and sit and use their legs together. At the age of 4, they took their first steps. 


When they were tiny, doctors considered separating them, but concluded it couldn’t be done safely. They have learned to balance and coordinate every move, bracing themselves at times to offset the strain of supporting two upper bodies on one set of hips and one pair of legs.

They lead a fairly normal life. They go to high school every day. They have a raft of friends. Carmen in learning to drive a car.

But Lupita is having trouble breathing. A curvature in her spine has reduced her breathing to 40% of her lung capacity. The odds of a successful operation are not very good.

Meet Eva Cassidy

Ella Fitzgerald's 100th birthday today

Giving money away

The province of Ontario, Canada's largest, is testing a new way to help poor people. The poor in three cities will be given money in place of current social welfare programs.The test will last for three years. Randomly selected participants living in three communities in Ontario will be given at least $12,600 a year minus 50% of any income earned from a job to live on. Couples will receive $18,300. Participants must have lived in one of the areas for over a year, be between 18-64 and be living on a lower income.

Ontario is not alone in trying this. Finland launched its own trial in January, and the Scottish government has expressed interest. The program will cost C$50m a year, and will include 4,000 households from across those three communities. By allowing people to keep part of their earnings, the government hopes people will be encouraged to work and not rely solely on assistance.

Superfoetation anyone?

It's only happened six times in the last 100 years. It happens when someone conceives then conceives again between two weeks and a month later. An English women conceived twins and two weeks later conceived another infant.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The War on Drugs

A few weeks ago NPR had a program on Lisbon and its decision to treat, rather than punish, drug addicts. So far, it's worked out well. What if we tried it here?

That's what Austin Frakt asks? He quotes from some studies that seem to be accurate: For one, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated that prescription opioid abuse, dependence and overdoses cost the public sector $23 billion a year, with a third of that attributable to crime. An additional $55 billion per year reflects private-sector costs attributable to productivity losses and health care expenses. About 80,000 Americans are incarcerated for opioid-related crimes alone. The total annual economic burden of all substance use disorders — not just those involving opioids — is in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Some other findings:
If we treated 10%1 more users,  the robbery and larceny theft rates would decrease by about 3 percent and the aggravated assault rate by 4 to 9 percent.
For a dollar spent on treatment, up to three are saved in crime reduction.
For every 100 patients on methadone per year, there were 12 fewer robberies, 57 fewer break-and-enters and 56 fewer auto thefts. 
The provision of heroin by doctors to patients addicted to it — permitted in Canada and some other countries — reduces crime.
The opening of an additional treatment facility in a county is associated with lower drug-related mortality in that county, as well as lower crime. The effect of crime reduction alone would save an estimated $4.2 million per facility per year, or almost four times its cost.

New England states could save $1.3 billion by expanding treatment of opioid-dependent persons by 25 percent.

Friday, April 21, 2017

It's gotten warmer

The following chart is from Climate Central. It's based on data from NOAA and NASA and shows the degree of warmth each month from 1880 to 2015. The blueish boxes indicate cool months, the reddish warm months. As you can see, the blues have disappeared.

Working at an iPhone factory

Stock Market Terrorism

In Germany the bus for a soccer team was blown up by not one but three bombs. Only two people were hurt. The police have arrested a young guy who had speculated (via put options) in the stock of the football team. He bet $83,000 which he had obtained as a loan. His theory was that the stock would drop after the explosion. It did drop slightly but came back

How to meet with the NSC

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Grass Church

The first International Church of Cannabis opened its doors in Denver this week. The church has no specific dogma. “We’re building a community of volunteers, and the common thread is that they use cannabis to positively influence their lives, and they use cannabis for spiritual purposes,” said one f the founders of the church, which now has a congregation of more than 200. 


Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 and has been fine-tuning its regulations ever since. It is still illegal to smoke in Denver’s public spaces.

Buy drugs overseas

They are a lot cheaper. A couple of examples: Daraprim, the antiparasitic drug whose price was raised by Mr. Shkreli to nearly $750 per pill, sells for a little more than $2 overseas. The cancer drug Cosmegen is priced at $1,400 or more per injection here, as opposed to about $20 to $30 overseas. Would the pharmaceutical companies offer the drugs at these low oversea prices if they were not making money on them?

But buying drugs made overseas is virtually impossible. Yet, the law does, in fact, make it possible. Under a provision of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, the FDA can allow drug imports whenever they are deemed safe and capable of saving Americans money. Further, 25% or more of drugs labeled American-made are actually manufactured in other countries, in plants inspected by the F.D.A. (So are 80 percent of the active ingredients used in the production of drugs in American factories.) In actuality, the “imports” that the industry refers to are the same pills as those “American-made” drugs, produced by the same F.D.A.-inspected plants overseas.